A senior Birmingham City Council official has apologised for the fact that social services did not save seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq from starving to death.
Tony Howell, Birmingham City Council's strategic director for children, young people and families, rejected calls for his resignation after Khyra's mother and stepfather were cleared of murder but convicted of her manslaughter.
Speaking at a press conference at Aston University, Mr Howell said: "I would like to begin by saying how sorry I am that we were unable to save Khyra Ishaq.
"It is difficult to comprehend that in this day and age a child can starve to death in Britain without anyone appearing to notice.
"But the fact of the matter is that it did happen, and it has caused a great deal of hard reflection among all the agencies in the city who have a responsibility to protect vulnerable children."
Mr Howell, who insisted that improvements had been made to Birmingham's children's social services since the death of Khyra, said he was thankful that those directly responsible for her death had been convicted.
Asked during the press conference if he felt he should relinquish his post, Mr Howell replied: "We have been working on improving children's social care for over a year now, working closely alongside Government.
"Improvements have been made. There would be no purpose served simply by resigning.
"Khyra's death has redoubled our commitment to improve support for vulnerable children and families in this city."
Mr Howell stressed that a Serious Case Review into Khyra's death was still being conducted by the Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board.
"While we are not able to comment ahead of the release of the Serious Case Review, we can say that in the two years since Khyra's death, there have been major changes and improvements in the way we protect vulnerable children and in the way we work more closely with our colleagues in other agencies, particularly the police," Mr Howell added.
But Mr Howell was under more pressure after it emerged that a High Court judge concluded that "in all probability" Khyra Ishaq would not have died if there had been "an adequate initial assessment and proper adherence by the educational welfare services to its guidance".
In her ruling of March last year which can be reported for the first time today, Mrs Justice King said: "It is beyond belief that in 2008 in a bustling, energetic and modern city like Birmingham, a child of seven was withdrawn from school and thereafter kept in squalid conditions for a period of five months before finally dying of starvation."
Khyra's mother, Angela Gordon, and her stepfather Junaid Abuhamza, will both be sentenced next week for her manslaughter.
Gordon, 35, was cleared of murder after prosecutors accepted her defence of diminished responsibility.
Gordon, who admitted manslaughter two weeks ago, was formally found not guilty of murder by jurors at Birmingham Crown Court on the orders of trial judge Mr Justice Roderick Evans.
The decision by the Crown to accept Gordon's plea to the lesser charge came after she admitted five counts of child cruelty and psychiatrists agreed that she was suffering from severe depression when Khyra died in May 2008.
The decision to accept Gordon's plea of not guilty to murder was taken in the sixth week of a retrial after several days of psychiatric assessment and legal argument.
Abuhamza, 30, pleaded guilty on February 12 to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
In a statement issued by Children's Secretary Ed Balls, he described what happened to Khyra as tragic.
Mr Balls said: "Everyone who reads or hears about her terrible death will be shocked and appalled.
"It is very hard for any of us to understand how adults could do this to children in their care.
"There are clearly serious questions to be answered about what local services and professionals were doing in the months before this tragedy took place.
"As the trial has shown, it is now clear that concerns about these children were not acted upon effectively and it is right that a Serious Case Review has been carried out."
The minister said the Local Safeguarding Children Board would report shortly and he expected it to publish a full and detailed executive summary which was clear about what happened and what action was being taken as a result.
The minister added: "The Government has already taken decisive action to intervene in Birmingham's children's services, following Ofsted's judgment in December 2008 that their services were inadequate in terms of safeguarding."
Explaining the decision not to pursue the murder charge against Gordon, prosecutor Timothy Raggatt QC told the trial judge that three psychiatrists had agreed she was suffering from severe depression in the month before Khyra died at her home in Leyton Road, Handsworth, Birmingham.
Mr Raggatt told the opening of the retrial, which followed an aborted trial held last summer, that Khyra died after being starved by her mother and stepfather during months of "calculated" cruelty.
Khyra was so emaciated at the time of her death on May 17, 2008, that her condition was outside the experience of medical professionals.
Abuhamza, who lived at Leyton Road in the months leading up to the death, also pleaded guilty to five counts of cruelty relating to five other children, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
The other children, who were also in the defendants' care, were "similarly starved" and assaulted, the court heard, with two of them found to be in a state of acute, severe and dangerous malnutrition.
Les Lawrence, Birmingham's cabinet member for children, young people, and families, also issued a statement after the court hearing.
Mr Lawrence said: "We were desperately sad and sorry when we heard of the horrific circumstances surrounding Khyra Ishaq's death.
"Her death has led to a great deal of soul-searching among all the agencies whose role it is to protect and support vulnerable children in this city.
"For our part, we have undergone a rigorous review of how we deliver support and protection to children and families. This is an ongoing process."
West Midlands Police's Assistant Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, who also answered reporters' questions at Aston University, said much of the evidence heard in court during the trial had been harrowing and distressing in the extreme.
The officer commented: "The reality is of a couple who submitted the children in their care to appalling cruelty.
"Both Gordon and Abuhamza's actions dropped far below the level of responsibility that falls on parents in a civilised, caring society.
"Other children in the household were deeply affected by the regime that existed within the family home, and the repercussions for them will be far-reaching and long-lasting."
The assistant chief constable added: "Whilst West Midlands Police are pleased with today's conclusion, now is very much a time for reflection for a young life cut so tragically short.
"Experienced officers were shocked and upset by the extent of cruelty inflicted on Khyra and the other children in the household.
"Under the auspices of the Safeguarding Board, West Midlands Police and our partner agencies have already instigated a detailed review of the case.
"It will look at the varying and complicated events which contributed to Khyra's death and how they developed.
"We need to understand how a mother and her partner could inflict such a regime without the community feeling able to raise the alarm.
"Our hearts go out to those who genuinely loved and cared about Khyra. For their sakes, it is important that we do everything in our power to ensure such a tragedy never happens again."
Speaking on the steps of the court building, Khyra's natural father, Ishaq Abuzaire, thanked his family and members of the Islamic community for their support since the death of his daughter.
He added: "I would also like to thank West Midlands Police for their efforts - they have shed a lot of light on the whole situation.
"I would also say thanks to the CPS, who, in my opinion, gave a good fight in the courts."
Khyra's father also thanked her school for its efforts to protect her and doctors at Birmingham Children's Hospital for their attempts to revive her.
Although he expressed disappointment that the defendants were not convicted of murder, Mr Abuzaire went on: "As far as the law is concerned, I am satisfied with the results.
"I think manslaughter was the right decision and the right outcome."